I spent the better part of six years with a very narrow idea of "home". My literal home was the boxy, six-wheeled place I slept and stored my assorted garbage. My actual home was, well, anywhere else, as I've oh so dramatically written about before. I'd whittled away the utility of my primary shelter to little more than a literal shell, and it's no secret that I was happy (and maybe even a bit proud) with that.
A Complete 180°
So when I moved into an honest-to-God house a year ago, I found myself in the relatively novel position of redefining what I wanted "home" to mean to me. For example, my home is now all of the following, in no particular order:
- Where I sleep
- Where I store my stuff
- Where I work New!
- Where I shower New!
- Where I exercise New!
- Where I spend my free time New!
- Where I eat Definitely New!
As such, it made sense to go back to the drawing board and figure out what I wanted my (New!) relationship with home to look like.
Back to Basics
When trying to make Important Decisions™ that will have lasting knock-on effects for years down the road, I try to put them in the context of my overarching principles and beliefs and see if that makes the answers any clearer. These are a useful North Star because, even with changing life circumstances, they hopefully aren't changing all that much (short of an existential crisis). In this case, the relevant principles and beliefs probably looked something like:
- Keep it simple - I'm a big fan of simplicity and cutting out unnecessary cruft. Simpler things tend to be cheaper, easier to maintain, etc.
- Stay healthy - I've got things I'd like to accomplish, and those things are way harder to do if I'm dead or even just descending into decrepitude. Fewer preventable ailments means more time to do stuff that matters to me.
- Be mindful of money - Money is a thin abstraction over our time, money is freedom, yadda yadda yadda. I want to be conscious of trading money for stuff, because that's less money Future Me has for his wild schemes for
world dominationwhatever he wants to do. Plus I'm not making Big Tech money anymore, I'm making nonprofit money, which is like, literally one fifth as much.
- Build stuff - I like being able to take a stupid idea and turn it into a stupid reality.
With those things in mind, the first thing I did when I moved into my house was…nothing. I figured the best way to keep things simple was to start at the bare minimum, and then add things once it was obvious they were going to be truly useful.
Nothing turned out to be a bit spartan for my tastes, so I went to the local grocery store and picked up a pan, a pot, and a big mug-bowl thing. Then I scoured Craigslist for the few implements I thought were relevant to my goals. I bought a treadmill desk (to work at), and assembled a squat rack (to lift at) out of six or so different postings. I drove around in rented UHauls schlepping stuff around like the good ole days.
This was the sum total of my home's furniture.
And before you ask, yes, I have considered taking up interior decorating professionally.
And for the first month or so, that's what my life looked like. All my meals were sautéed vegetables + some carb + some protein. I ate them out of my one weird mug-bowl thing, either standing in the kitchen, or sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat* on the floor like some New Age yuppie. In retrospect, it acted as a gradual transition to being a real person, and it was glorious.
Then my better half moved up to Oregon and politely requested we live in a real house, with reasonable amounts of actual furniture and kitchenware. I now eat my meals sitting at a table like a Real Human Being, out of Very Normal plates and bowls.** There's even an area rug, which was a completely foreign concept to me. It's alright I guess.
Some New Definitions
With the house as a blank canvas to paint the rest of my life on, I started thinking about what I liked most about life in the truck — the regimentation, the simplicity, the drive to minimize stuff, etc — and how I was going to replicate those things in the new digs. Having a gym in the basement certainly makes it easier to get into an exercise routine, though not quite as rigidly as in the truck times of yesteryear where I had to go to the gym to shower, or risk my coworkers smelling my degeneracy. Video calls (mercifully) don't transmit scent, so the imperative to shower isn't as dire anymore. As far as keeping things simple + minimal, that one has mostly handled itself. While I'm not one to use the phrase "Feng shui" unironically, I definitely find myself preferring the vibes of a mostly empty room, so there's little incentive for me to fill the house with stuff. even without the space constraints of the truck.
On the flip side, I also thought about all the, shall we say, less than ideal aspects of the truck. The inability to store and/or cook food. Co-workers coming in while I'm brushing my teeth in the office bathroom. Rain being cataclysmically loud. Being roasted alive during the day. That sort of stuff. For the most part, these have been solved by, well, just not living in a box truck. Easy peasy.
Then, there's all the new perks. I save money by cooking all my own meals (and have started a torrid love affair with Costco + buying in bulk). I have a stable place for working on my assorted projects, and I can run them on a small (also Craigslist-purchased) data center in my basement.*** I can stare at a wall for hours at a time and nobody will call the police. I live in the middle of nowhere, the only external activity I can do easily is hiking; stuff like going to restaurants requires driving into town or hours of round trip hiking. I consider these all Good Things™ — making "the things you want to do" easy and "the things you don't want to do" hard is Habit Change 101.
No seriously, I now have the computing power of a small island nation. The monstrous electricity requirements are offset by a roof full of solar panels, which generate nearly a megawatt hour of energy per month in the summer.
At this point, I've been in the house for a whole year (almost to the day!), and generally feel like I've settled into a happy (and new and different) rhythm. I've had plenty of time to reflect on the truck and all the changes and whatnot, and that alone should be enough to keep this blog from collecting too much dust in the near future. Stay tuned!
*I've had the yoga mat for years, it's a surprisingly useful piece of fabric.
**I still use the giant mug-bowl thing for cereal. I measure my cereal serving size in "high double digit percentages of the whole box".
***This blog is not running in my basement. While I have gigabit download speeds, my uploads are limited to the low double digit megabits per second, which means serving large content like images would become a bottleneck, potentially choking out my (and my partner's) ability to use the internet and do work and stuff. I might eventually run the blog admin infrastructure locally though.